In my new book Aftershock: How Past Events Shake Up Your Life Today, I help readers identify how their mental health can be impacted by ordinary “life traumas” weeks or even months after the event itself. “Life traumas” happen to all of us from going through a bad break-up or grieving the loss of a loved one to changing careers, raising children or living with a chronic illness. These “life traumas” are an unavoidable part of being human. However, I wrote this book to remind readers that it’s acceptable, even expected to not feel “okay” when we are struggling. Aftershock also provides real-world tips on how to quiet that nasty internal monologue that lives in our heads. Here are a few tips, you can find in the book, that will begin to teach you how to love yourself unconditionally, not contingently.
Supportive Connections: Life-givers vs. Life-suckers
Make connections with people who are supports, not life-suckers. Surround yourself with people who will give you grace — that thing you so often deny yourself.
When you feel down and at your worst, the last thing you need is for a family member or “friend” to rub salt in your wounds. Yes, you are your own worst enemy. However, some family and friends are more than willing to compete for that title.
Talking with friends, aka life-givers, who will support a venting session or remind me that my internal monologue is a nasty gossip has helped to maintain what is left of my sanity. I was talking to a physician friend of mine who had studied Judaism. During one of our conversations, which almost always consisted of how we might help a patient, I asked him, “How do you treat yourself, or what do you say to yourself when you mess up or feel bad?”
“Rabbi Hillel, one of the greatest Jewish philosophers of all time, had a great saying that has helped me during tough times. He said, ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?’” he answered.
After we spoke, I immediately did a Google search for the quote by Rabbi Hillel, wrote it down on a sticky note, and stuck it on my computer. Now, every time I start to turn on myself, I read Rabbi Hillel’s quote, take four deep breaths, and give myself permission to:
1. Duct tape shut the big mouth on that little Geri-Lynn in my head.
2. Be my own cheerleader.
3. Move forward.
Try it yourself! Jot down the Rabbi’s wise words and create your own 3-step process to help change that voice in your head from harsh and critical to kind and empowering.
Mis-Connections: Social Media Can Be Such an Isolating Place
It’s not just your envious “friends” and misanthropic relatives that can sabotage you. It’s those distant, anonymous trolls on the web who tell you how great they are and what a useless nothing you are. Data is piling up that too much social media makes us feel like crap about ourselves. So, if you resemble that remark, cut back! Decrease your screen time — shut this down, even if it is for an hour or two. We have access to so much information on our phones, from social media platforms like Twitter and Tik-Tok to news feeds. We get hit with a constant flow of information based on our scrolling habits, which sucks us in for even longer.
As for Tik-Tok, I didn’t know what the hell it was until my kids downloaded it on my phone so they could make videos. Before I knew it, I was stuck in a Tik-Tok hostage situation in which I couldn’t stop watching videos of people lip-syncing lines from movies and making meals that I would never even have imagined, much less attempted, before watching. The stimulation and access to information often ended with me feeling more anxious, or at least dull-witted and blah.
So I promised myself to limit my time scrolling social media platforms, after-hours work e-mails, and carrying my phone around, because simply having it on me made it easy to work and scroll more — and more is not always better.
Do Something For You
Hey, in addition to getting your inner voice on your side, how about trying this: Do one thing every day that makes you happy and is just for you.
If you enjoy taking a bath, playing tennis, or even watching trashy reality TV, make time to do it daily. Make your happiness a priority; even if it’s just for a few minutes, it can go a long way.
About Geri-Lynn Utter
Geri-Lynn Utter, PsyD, is a renowned clinical psychologist and author based in Philadelphia who specializes in working with those struggling with co-occurring mental health concerns, such as trauma and drug addiction. Dr. Utter is the author of Aftershock: How Past Events Shake Up Your Life Today, published by Health Communications, Inc. Visit her website: drgerilynn.com.